When I first started this deal, I wanted this camera to be sort of like a journal. It didnít take me all that long to decide that I didnít want the network to have rights to that kind of stuff, thoughóthe stuff that truly goes on inside my head. I thought I would be talking about my love for Alexandra, or maybe about my goals or plans of the future, but I didnít end up using this camera nearly as much as I expected.
I realized that anything important would stay inside my head, although I suppose if I start thinking Iím not going to make it, Iíll probably be layiní down some pretty heavy shit while I sit on this little stool in this little room in the middle of this gigantic desert.
Iím over two months in. I have three weeks and six days left. I can hardly believe that Iím so close. On one hand, it seems like Iím almost done, that Iím practically home already. On the other hand, thereís still a lot of ways to die.
So why am I back in here, you wonder? Well, itís like thisóthereís some pretty freaky shit going down lately.
It started last week, I think. I say ďI think,Ē because Iím not really sure if what happened last week really had anything to do with thisÖsituation. So thatís where Iím going to start, and if it turns out that the shit last week has nothing to do with it, so be it.
I woke up in the middle of the night, which is really unusual. By the end of the day, Iím so hot and tired that I usually crash out and sleep straight through the night. When I first got out here, there were a few nights where I woke up because of the strange new noises of the night, but I quickly became used to them, and generally feel safe inside my tent.
Last week, though, something woke me up. I didnít wake up in that comfortable, got-enough-sleep way. I woke up with my heart racing, like I knew that something was wrong even before I had pulled myself out of sleep. I stayed quiet, listening for whatever had caused me to wake up. I listened so long that I thought maybe it had just been a bad dream that woke me, but then I heard something move outside of my tent.
As I lay there in the darkness, I realized that it was the sound of my tent zipper that had awakened me. Itís weird, because I canít really know it for sure, but as I was straining to hear noise, it just clicked in my brainóit was the sound of something trying to open my tent. I keep it locked, even though Iíve at times thought that I was being overly paranoid. Itís not muchójust a tiny little snap on the inside that makes it impossible to unzip the flap. Itís not anywhere near as secure as an apartment door in the city, but itís enough to keep a casual visitor out.
And then, after several minutes, I heard whatever was out there walk away. It didnít walk directly away, thoughóit walked down by the side of my tent, and there was a noise like someone running their fingers along the fabric as they walked. Only it didnít sound like fingers, really. It sounded more like claws.
I know how whacky that sounds, but thatís what happened. I didnít hear the noises again that night, but I didnít get back to sleep, either. It felt like days before the sun cam up, and when it did, I went out and checked around the tent for tracks. There hadnít been any wind the night before, and although most of the ground around my camp is hardpan, thereís enough loose sand that it would be almost impossible not to leave a mark of some sort.
But there was nothing.
As the sun climbed higher and the day got brighter, I convinced myself that it was probably all just a dreamóone of those where you think youíre awake, but really youíre not, but they seem so real that itís hard to figure out whatís what.
Dreams like that arenít so bad when youíre in the real world, because sooner or later, something comes along that knocks your senses back into you. You dream that your bed is filled with spiders, you wake up and your girlfriend tells you that sheí been awake since seven and there werenít any spiders; you dream that you had to attend your fatherís funeral, but then you end up talking to him on the phone later in the day.
When youíre out in the middle of a desert all by yourself, it gets difficult on a whole new level. Sure, if you dream that youíre in the city, and youíve just stepped out of your air-conditioned apartment to get an ice cream cone, you can quickly discount the reality of it when you wake up in mid-afternoon in the middle of a desert.
But when you dream that you jumped out of bed in the middle of the night and chased down a rabbit, broke its neck, ripped out its insides with your bare hands, and then ate most of it raw? Well, thatís a little more difficult to discount, you know? Especially when the dream is so specific that youíre even washing the blood off your hands.
You wake up from something like that, it takes a while to convince yourself that the taste in your mouth is the same nasty morning-breath as always. So I convinced myself that the sound in the night was nothing more than a dream, and then I promptly forgot about it.
But then a few nights ago, as I was walking back to camp, I saw something dart across the horizon. It was there and gone, and I didnít get a good look at it, but I saw that it was nothing that I recognized. It was on its hind legs like a man, but leaning forward to where it seemed to bounce off its knuckles a couple times before vanishing over the edge of nowhere.
The sand dunes and the endless stretch of desert make it hard to figure distance, and when you see something vanish over a dune like the thing did, it causes a hell of an optical illusion. It looked like it just disappeared, but I figured it had hopped over one of the dunes.
I just stared at the dune, waiting to see if the thing made another appearance, not really scared, but vaguely unsettled and very concerned. Looking at the bright side, I figured that for it to vanish over a dune like it did, it was too far to ever get to my camp and back while I was checking my traps.
I was wrong.
When I got back, I saw that my room was destroyed, my food was gone, and my water jugs were scattered all over the place, most of them tipped over and empty. The only tracks around the tent were my own.
I just stood there, man. I mean, I didnít know what to do. I mean, what do you do in that situation? I just stood there, looking around in disbelief, until I realized that I was shaking. I hadnít even realized I was scared, but there I wasótrembling like a beat child. I zipped the tent flap up, made sure that the little ring was latched, and then I began cleaning up my tent.
Itís both scary and foolish to hang out in the desert without a reserve of water, but I couldnít bring myself to unzip the tent and make the walk out to the water tanks.
Pretty much everything was destroyed in the main room, but this room was left basically untouched, as the section-divider had been zipped shut. Of course, I was pretty sure that my entire tent had been zipped up when I left, too.
I crawled into bed, still holding the sharpened branch I use to kill whatever I find in my traps. Itís about three feet long, and probably wouldnít do me much good if I got attacked in the night, but it was better than being completely unarmed.
I slept very little that night, jumping at the slightest noise, but I didnít anything unusual. The next morning, I set off with my empty water jugs and began the long task of hauling water back to the tent.
Before I left, though, I searched through my luggage until I found the little metal padlock that came with my suitcase. It wasnít much, and to tell you the truth, I hadnít even planned on bringing itóI had noticed it one morning and laughed about the fact that I had a lock on my suitcase while separated from society by hundreds of miles of sand.
But it was enough to ensure that I had my tent closed, and it was enough that nothing would be getting back in without a bit of trying.
I spent the rest of the day checking my trapsóall emptyóand then slept like the dead.
When I woke up this morning, I decided I should record these events. I donít know whatís going on, but I want it on record.
Iím thinking that when you need stuff on record, thatís when life is not going as well as youíd hoped, no matter if youíre in the middle of the desert. You know?